Why People Management is Replacing Talent Management

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  • Russell Pereira

    Thanks for the insightful synthesis of this topic. The term “talent management” has never really resonated with me, and the manner in which you’ve contrasted it to “People management” has helped clarify some reasons why.

    Regarding your thoughts on what to call the next stage of “talent management” I hesitate to go with your suggestion of “People Management” as this also infers a level commoditization of people as ‘resources that need to be managed’, and lacks a compassionate/”whole person” perspective. If an end goal is empowerment, we should probably consider a simple distinction between “people” and “performance” to differentiate how each should be treated; i.e. we should manage performance, but develop and inspire people.

    Another perspective on the future I’ve found insightful is from Frederic Laloux in his book “Reinventing Organizations.” The main body of his research centers on 12 pioneering organizations that have already escaped the gravitational pull of traditional organization design and are operating at the next level referred to as “Teal”. Three underlying characteristics of teal organizations are:
    1) “self-management”
    2) “wholeness”, and
    3) “evolutionary purpose”

    Whilst his terminology is a little different, in that it stems from individual and social development theories, your core themes of engagement, empowerment and environment are reinforced in substantial and practical detail.

    Thanks again for this great post and trust it should spark some new and interesting conversations.

    • Graham

      Great article – Thanks. Really pulls past, current and future challenges together brilliantly (and a pdf to keep and retain would be great too). Talent, as a concept of what people offer/give at work (and elsewhere, e.g. volunteering and roles in the community) is an output/outcome, shaped by their engagement, commitment and environment (organisation culture) which enables it. I think employees are increasingly consumers, they know what they want/like, are savvy about who can serve their interests/needs best, (and how to find that out) and they’ll choose the best employers who can satisfy them. Rainer Strack’s research illuminates and serves as a great reminder of what we’ve know for donkey’s years (and mostly ignored). Let’s ditch ‘talent and focus on people and culture – as advisers, leaders, directors, administrators and managers – it’s what people at work want from us, and they want it made simple and easy to work and collaborate with.

  • martinsnyder

    We founded our recruiting technology firm in 1998, so we have experienced the whole evolution in HR mindset that Josh describes. This item is excellent preparation for anyone wishing to have the current terminology and concepts at hand- Josh’s work has always been terrific for that purpose. And yet.

    I believe there is a chauvinism around digital businesses that echoes the early Space Age optimism of the ’60’s. The truth, now, as then, is that the essentials of in-group amity and out-group enmity have not changed a bit. The need for constant drudgery in much of the labor of daily life has barely changed, nor have the social needs for caregivers and educators and functionaries who are not makers or creatives notably declined. The uniquely American social class of highly skilled mechanics, builders, and technicians remains blue-collar, with all of the cultural freight associated with our class system. And we still don’t really think of the people who do those jobs as “talent” as much as we still think of them as “labor”.

    The technical elite working on the most advanced manufacturing and design problems are similar to those people who worked on Apollo and the nascent semiconductor industry; they remain numerically elite, and even more expensive for families to provide to society.
    There was incredible passion and engagement and cohesion to those jobs back then, just as there is today. Will the digital age enter a period of disillusion, as the Space Age did, for similar reasons?
    Will it be because it could not possibly live up to the hopes of transcendence that it promised?

    “People Management” is redundant. Management has always been about people. All kinds of people. If this new philosophy breaks out of the milieu of elites and makers, and filters to everyday management of everyday activity, it will be transformational, and it will be about “people” Until then, I think it will still be about talent, regardless of the term du jour for the distinction.

  • Martin Sutherland

    Thanks Josh, once again, for laying out the timeline of talent management so clearly and coherently. The past, and the problems it created while trying to solve the problems it was focused on, is a great predictor of how the area will have to evolve in future. We’ve observed 4 big problems that have derailed well-intentioned talent programs in the last 10 years:

    1. Complexity: Too many concepts, too many interfaces, too many data points, too focused on automating old inefficient HR processes instead of rethinking them from the “outside-in”, lead to unwieldy, incomprehensible solutions that couldn’t deliver value unless all the pieces were in place, and they never were. Now HR customers demand the same simplicity from HR that they get from Air BnB or Uber.

    2. Lack of utility: When we think of utility, we often think of a Leatherman, the one tool that can solve any problem no matter where you are. In the words of Alanis Morissette, HR seems to provide “10,000 spoons, when all I need is a knife”. because so many programs and initiatives are designed to meet an HR “need”, and that term is used loosely, the ultimate beneficiary is seldom taken into account. Why does LinkedIn know more about a company’s employees than the company itself? Because people get value and visibility from putting their information into LinkedIn, it’s not often the same can be said for putting your information into an HR system.

    3. Lack of continuity: In the majority of the clients we work with, the person we started working with is gone within 2 to 3 years. If they are a high performer they get poached or promoted, if they are a poor performer they get a better job somewhere else. The majority of problems that talent management is trying to solve have a medium to long time horizon, i.e. if you do it right now, you should see the result in 3 – 10 years from now, e.g. high potential graduates becoming general managers, performance programs actually improving performance, succession risks being mitigated, engagement levels increasing. Solutions need to be sustainable beyond a single person, or a new fad, and the only way to do that is to make it such a part of company culture that no one individual can derail it. Try taking someone’s Facebook profile away an see if they respond the same way to removing their “employee profile”.

    4. Lack of urgency: If HR was a start-up it would have run out of money and customers a long time ago. This point may be the consequence of overly-complex, low utility solutions that don’t engage people. The concept of rapid prototyping and redesign just isn’t used in HR. If there is a pilot process, it takes 3 – 12 months, instead of 3 – 12 weeks. The vacant positions, the turnover of high performers, the lack of internal leaders to grow new markets can all be “fixed” by going shopping outside. Hence the massive growth in head hunters and recruiters. There is no “burning platform”, if a company doesn’t ship a product on time it goes bankrupt, if there is no equivalent for Talent Management.

    So the natural evolution will be brought about by the people and companies who solve the problems that the other people and companies have created over the last 10 years. Make it simple, useful, sustainable and fast.

  • Garren Edwards

    Great article Josh and very well written. The challenge I see organisations face time and time again is HR developing a “People Management” (the name gets my vote) policy or approach which has very little if any involvement from the business. Surely the business, and I mean Managers, Employees have some say and input to what and how the policy is and how it gets implemented. Lets assume I am a Manager, I would want to know:
    ‘what is in this for me’ – will I be able to manage/coach my employees better to meet mine and their objectives
    ‘how will I do this” – yet another new tool HR acquired which I have to learn, oh and by the way did HR check with IT that we can use this new tool in our current IT environment or will it run so slow no one will use it
    HR need to think about how they create great advocates and coaches for People Management which relates to the business at all levels. Keep it simple, engage the people which will lead to empowerment

  • Oumar

    As always, very insightful article Josh!

  • Johan

    Thanks Josh, for an excellent exposition

    Martin Sutherland: I would like to add leadership as a 5th big problem in people management. Leadership at all levels of the organisation is key in winning with smart-creatives

  • Michael Massetti

    Very well-written and comprehensive article. The framework for talent vs. people management and the evolution over time is compelling.

    Regarding “talent” vs. “people” as a long-term manager and organizational leader, the two words are synonymous to me. People have talent. Talent is brought to us by people, it is not some abstract entity that we acquire. While HR systems and processes may have distinguished between the two, organizational leaders always know that it’s people with talent.

    We need talented people to run the business. Talent is the skill set brought to us by people. People need to be engaged, challenged, given autonomy, grown, developed, and so on. Talent expands as people grow. It’s a leader’s job to manage the organization and the life cycle of the people from acquisition to eventual disposition (new role, leave organization, retire, etc.) so that their talent continues to contribute to the organization effectively.

    I’d love a PDF version of this to print out.

    • Hi Michael, thank you… i’ll get this published into a good pdf…

      • Michael Massetti

        Thank you!

  • Justin

    Josh – you mentioned post annual customer event of Achievers that you weren’t quite sure what “Employee Success” meant and how they are utilizing the phrase. Just a thought… could that be the phrase you’re looking for where you mention “…I’m not sure what to call this next stage…”?

  • Great article, thanks a lot for sharing it.

  • Thanks Josh for your sharing. I am excited to read that Empowerment plays a key role in the next stage of Talent Management. It keeps me thinking as a HR practitioner how we can make Empowerment happen to let people work with more autonomy and passion.

    The current notion of performance management tends to tell people what gaps they need to close to meet certain job requirements, rather than where they can apply their strengths to do best. When HR presents the year-end review to management, most people except the high performers are often attached to a list of development needs. I believe the strengths-based approach you mentioned in the article will help leaders see more of people’s strengths, so as to increase their confidence level to empower them.

    Perhaps the next stage of Talent Management may as well be named Strengths Management? I am imagining the future HR’s role (and that of L&D’s) to manage an inventory of people’s strengths and focus on maximizing them, instead of investing in what people are not good at to begin with.

  • michael jakob

    Is Talent Management really going through an evolution? Are integrated processes the philosophers’ stone? Is to change the brand or label from HR to whatever kind of Management the solution?
    I don’t think so!
    Most Talent Management approaches are suffering from disconnection – disconnection to the people. It’s not only HRs’ role. Talent Management has to work accross the company and needs the right culture.

    Means – Talent Management has to serve the company and not a single superior, supervisor, department, team. (Who tend to hide their Talents, or hide their external sources)

    Any company who will be able to get acceptance for the process (for sure automation, integration or software
    helps – but not always – remember the forced ranking disaster) and involves the process organization in the right way, will be successful in Talent Management, with or without software solutions

  • Rose Barlow

    Josh you are a thought leader in your field. As a woman who had a chunk of her career in what you call talent management I have to say that it’s evolution was so ‘masculine’ as to be almost a caricature. I was in Europe during this period of my career so the regulatory framework was very different from the U.S. You don’t address regulatory considerations. You also don’t address the issue that first line supervisors are the most often cited reason why people disengage. And the churn rates in the job market go up or down depending on overall labor market tightness i.e. a ‘buyers’ or ‘sellers’ market. When I started in this game 30 years ago we called ourselves Personnel. The P word. I think it delicious that we are back around to a P word. They are not a million miles away. Even though change is. And we live in a time of hyper-change, people have always been in the workplace. Despite every effort to fragment us into elements such as ‘talent’ our humanity and individuality have always been with us. Just hidden in plain sight by fashion. And jargon.

  • Josh, Great article and I like your shift from talent to people although I am not sure I like “management”, I prefer leadership in its place as a more active approach. Your article is spot in and I completely agree with “We know this shift has happened because all our research shows that engagement and retention has become one of the biggest issues in business today (followed very closely by the need to give people education, training, and development). If we can’t create an environment that attracts you and others to the organization, you go elsewhere. This is why new tools to understand the drivers of engagement, analyze and predict retention, and manage flight risk are among the hottest new areas of HR. (The annual engagement survey is rapidly becoming obsolete.)” Thanks for sharing!

  • Great article raising some interesting points. I’m not sure whether it matters a great deal to the rest of the world whether ‘the function’ is called Talent, People or something else but I’m sure this debate will keep the HR community engaged for years :-). What I’ve noticed is that any time an organisation starts to want to record a lot of data they can use to analyse performance, trends etc.. this tends to lead to a dehumanising of the ‘people processes’ (so its easier to capture the data) which is what people really don’t like. To make any organisation people centred, I think we need to bring back more humanistic interactions which are natural and spontaneous rather than contrived and overly engineered by the HR/Talent/People team so that everyone in the organisation feels they can have any conversation at any time, rather than having to wait for the appropriate point in the process during which that conversation can be recorded. In one of my roles we played around with the idea of using a Just-In-Time approach to Succession Planning which was based around promoting the practice of continuous conversations with the Talent Team so we would better know and understand the needs of those we had on our ‘lists’ (especially as these changed) so we’d be better able to spot a ‘match’ when an opportunity came along. This led to all sorts of outcomes we could never had anticipated if we’d stuck to a more traditional approach, including much higher levels of retention. The great shock when I did the first round of conversations was just how many of our ‘top talent’ already had one foot out the door…and we had no idea. What was most interesting was that, as word got out, that this was happening with ‘top talent’, managers ‘further down the line’ started to spontaneously have these conversations with their team members which made a lot more people who were highly engaged and motivated visible which in turn, led to a much needed increase in mobility across the business in an organisation that had been pretty resistant to that idea when I joined. I think one of the most difficult things for an HR function to do is give up control but if we want to develop cultures built on trust and engagement, we have to walk the talk!

  • Ashish Kolvalker

    Hi Josh – very nice, evolved article and looks like you have studied several leading organizations before authoring this one.

    What I only dont agree with is the aspect of segmenting talent, and rewarding 10X performers / top talent guys. Agree we should work on all people, do strength based coaching etc. however CEOs and business leaders will always be interested in knowing who are their key talent / top talent from their teams, so that they can keep an eye out for them. Succession planning only stems for this, large number of organizations are still very rudimentary in this one aspect.

    I am sure these changes will come about in cutting edge organizations, but a large spectrum of the mid-tier / smaller organizations are quite rookie in talent management processes.

  • René Showalter

    Josh, I love all of your work (you have deeply inspired me throughout my career). Thank you for sharing.

    Instead of “People Management” how about “Pangaea Management” or “E-Management” (Enable, Engage, Empower)

  • Ax Sun

    I want to continue my PHD.

    Any suggestion for future research in the field of Talent management?
    Your advice will be much appreciated.

    Thank you from Malaysia.